This article was originally published in Partisan issue no. 22, printed January 2007.
In early 2006, Bruce McPherson tried to remove the Peace and Freedom Party from the ballot. In November 2006, the voters removed McPherson from office. Yes, there is a connection.
Carefully twisting the meaning of several sections of the Elections Code, Schwarzenegger-appointed Secretary of State Bruce McPherson claimed that the Peace and Freedom Party did not have enough registered voters to stay on the ballot. (In fact, the party had about six times the required number.) His ruling was announced as Peace and Freedom Party candidates up and down the state circulated their nominating papers.
Party officers immediately mobilized to overturn the ruling, and called for assistance from ballot access advocates in several parties. Some Libertarians and Greens helped by pointing out legal problems with McPherson's actions, and detailed explanations of his faulty interpretations were in the hands of reporters and some legislators within two days.
One (and only one) Democrat, Senator Debra Bowen, the head of the Senate's Elections and Reapportionment Committee, spoke up for Peace and Freedom's ballot status. She asked some hard questions of McPherson and instructed her staff to provide useful information to party leaders.
Peace and Freedom leaders called a press conference in front of McPherson's Sacramento office to announce that the party was taking him to court, and prepared full explanations of McPherson's errors to give out to the media. Minutes before the press conference was to start, one of McPherson's deputies telephoned to say that the Peace and Freedom Party would be on the ballot after all. The press conference-turned-celebration was widely reported in Northern California. McPherson claimed that his interpretation was correct, and that all the other Secretaries of State who interpreted the law differently over the years were wrong, but said he was forced to be generous by precedent. No one took him seriously.
Senator Bowen entered and won the Democratic primary for Secretary of State, and the other candidates (including Margie Akin of the Peace and Freedom Party) directed all their fire at McPherson, whom they characterized as a partisan bungler and a tool of corrupt voting machine companies. When the votes were counted in November, McPherson was defeated, and Debra Bowen was elected Secretary of State. In an additional defeat for McPherson, the Peace and Freedom Party received enough votes to be assured of a place on the California ballot through at least 2010.